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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's basketball

Hoosiers defeat Belmont, advance in WNIT

With five seconds remaining, the IU women’s basketball team led by just one.

Sophomore guard Nicole Bell, normally reliable as a 83.3 percent career free throw shooter, had just missed a 1-and-1 opportunity.

But as Belmont junior guard Jordyn Luffman raced up the court, IU freshman guard Alexis Gassion took the ball away as quickly as Luffman had rebounded Bell’s miss.

Gassion’s steal with one second remaining preserved IU’s 48-47 win over Belmont in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) Thursday night in Assembly Hall.

“That’s what Lex does,” freshman guard Larryn Brooks said. “She’s a hustle person. She easily could go out and score 20 any night, but that’s what she does for us and that’s what we need mostly.”

Brooks and freshman forward Lyndsay Leikem each had 11 points to lead the Hoosiers, who were making their first postseason appearance since 2009.

Similar to their 2009 first-round WNIT matchup with Dayton, it came down to the final seconds. Only this time, the Hoosiers didn’t need a game-winning shot to get to the next round.

“I know it’s cliché to say that we survived and advanced,” IU Coach Curt Miller said. “But if there was ever more a time to talk about surviving, we survived and found a way right there at the end to get to the finish line.”

Because Belmont had only two team fouls with nine seconds remaining, it was forced to commit five consecutive fouls to put IU at the free throw line.

Ironically, Bruins Coach Cameron Newbauer said he had seen it earlier in the day watching Ohio State and Dayton play in the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

“They had three or four team fouls with like two minutes to go. I said to the person watching the game with me, ‘that’s incredible, that never happens,’” he said. “All of sudden, there’s two minutes and 19 seconds left and my assistant is tapping me saying, ‘hey we only have two team fouls.’ The irony in that is ridiculous.”

Leading by only three at halftime, the Hoosiers needed a spark to break away from the Bruins. IU went on a 14-3 run in the first six minutes and 23 seconds of the second half for its largest lead of the night.

Leikem was a key contributor to that run, who scored five of those 14 points. Heading into the game, she averaged 4.4 points per game.  

“She’s been shooting the ball tremendous in practice recently,” Miller said. “She’s that stretch four that we like to play with. We have confidence to run plays for her on the perimeter and she’s a better penetrator than you give her credit for.”

With Leikem and other freshmen performing well, they and her older teammates now get the chance to continue their postseason run. For the five seniors, four of which who have been with the program all four years, it’s a chance to build on their legacy.

Miller said the game wasn’t pretty, but for what the growing program was trying to build.

“I really wanted to continue to coach this team,” Miller said. “I really wanted to have an opportunity to stay with this senior class as along as possible and to keep practicing and challenging our freshmen to get better and put them in this environment because I hope that in the future we have this opportunity throughout their career to be in postseason play.”

The Hoosiers advanced to the second round of the WNIT, in which it will face Marquette at 7 p.m. Saturday at Assembly Hall.

“It will be a great challenge for us on a quick turnaround,” Miller said.

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